Rating: R for violence
Characters: Nine, Jack
Spoilers: None, really
Disclaimer: Characters and settings belong to the Beeb. I make no claim to them. I’m just here to have fun.
Summary: The Doctor, Jack, and Rose stop in a trade and resort town. During a shopping expedition, the Doctor finds something extraordinary, something rare, something that makes him very, very angry....
Comments: Jack comes face to face with the Doctor after he concludes business with Mischa. --Comments are love. Enjoy!
Author's note: And so he story concludes. It doesn't end the way I had planned, but the characters wrested the story from me and made it their own. It's not quite what I promised, but I think it ends in a way that makes sense for all concerned and is emotionally satisfying. Hope you agree and enjoy.
Series cross-posted to A Teaspoon and An Open Mind.
To story as a whole:
Chapter One: The Merchant's Wares
Chapter Two: Movement
Chapter Three: The Hunt
Chapter Four: The Trader
Chapter Five: The TARDIS
Chapter Six: A Fight Over More than Surfaces
The Doctor was waiting for Jack as he entered the TARDIS. He leaned against the console, his arms crossed tightly in front of him. Jack pulled the door shut behind him and walked slowly up the ramp. He looked directly at the Doctor. He'd done what he had to do. He was the only one who could have done it. They all knew it.
He stopped at the top of the ramp. He had to push his way through this. It was the only way they could all move on. He'd killed men before. This was no different.
Except it was. It had been out of love and rage, not out of duty or as the result of an order from a commanding officer.
He put his hands on his hips and waited for the Doctor to speak.
"What have you done, Jack?" the Doctor asked.
Why was he asking? They both knew.
"I took care of it," he said.
"What did you do?"
"I made sure that Mischa will never impersonate you again." Before the Doctor could say more, he asked,
That seemed to catch the Doctor off guard. "I told her to get a room in the city. I didn't want her here for this."
Jack didn't believe for a minute that Rose would leave the Doctor after what he'd been through, but he wasn't going to pursue it, at least not now.
"For what? Are you evicting me?" he said.
The Doctor's eyes seemed to go dark. He unfolded his arms, and gripped the console behind him. "No."
The Doctor launched himself off the console and was at Jack in three strides. He grabbed Jack's arms and looked into his eyes, searching. Jack felt a piercing cold enter his mind like a searchlight, tight and sharp. Vertigo hit and his knees went weak. Like fanning through a deck of cards, Jack's memories of the last few days whipped by, scene by scene--Rose, the Doctor, the market, Mischa, the dying TARDIS, Mischa wearing the Doctor's face. Jack's hands around Mischa's throat.
The sensation dissipated. Jack once more was looking into the Doctor--his Doctor's--eyes. The Doctor steadied him. Had that been the Doctor inside his mind? It must have been. Anger welled inside of him at the invasion, but he was helpless before it; he understood it and he could do nothing about it.
The Doctor leaned in close, pressed his forehead against Jack's. "You stupid ape," the Doctor said, low and intense. His eyes were damp. "You bloody human. Murder isn't an answer."
"It wasn't murder. It was justice," Jack hissed. He tried to break the hold the Doctor had on his arms, but the man's strength was just alien enough that Jack was trapped there. "Mischa stole a part of you. She would have used that part any way she could. She would have destroyed you without a thought, because having another face was convenient. I had the power to do something about that. It was the only way. You know it."
The Doctor broke away from him then, walked back to the console and leaned on it, his back to Jack. Jack followed and stood by his side.
"There must have been another way," the Doctor said, not looking at him.
"Who would have done it? You? No, you have rage, but you're not a killer. Rose? She would have done it. She'd do anything for you. But neither one of us was going to let that happen." He put a hand on the Doctor's shoulder, and pushed the man to face him. "I'm a soldier. This was war. Every war has casualties."
"You killed. For me. It should have been me. I should have done it."
Jack winced at the raw pain in the Doctor's voice, a new grief laid upon the grief he carried with him every single day. Jack's chest tightened at the sound, but he had to make the Doctor see reason.
"Doctor." Jack held the Doctor's arms the way the Doctor had held his, so he couldn't walk away. "You and Rose are my life now. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
The Doctor didn't say anything for a moment, and Jack knew that he was deliberating. Jack wondered if his own life were in the balance. Finally, the Doctor spoke.
"You shouldn't have to carry it with you. It's mine. Let me take it from you." The Doctor put his hands on Jack's temples. The touch was sensitive and gentle; that surprised Jack. "I won't come in unless you give permission."
Jack wondered what made this different from just moments before, when no permission had been asked for or granted.
"This is different," the Doctor said, without Jack having said a word.
Jack examined the Doctor's face, his expression. This would be one more grief he'd carry. There had to be a way for Jack to ease it. He'd figure it out. In the meanwhile . . .
"You have my permission," he whispered, his throat tight.
"I won't look at anything you don't want me to see," the Doctor said softly. "Just say no if I go where I'm not wanted."
Jack nodded fractionally.
He could already feel a cool presence pushing at his awareness.
"Take a deep breath and let it out slowly," the Doctor advised. "I'll be more careful this time."
Looking into the Doctor's blue eyes--out of fear or the need for reassurance he wasn't sure--Jack inhaled, held it a moment, then exhaled through his parted lips and closed his eyes. That cool intelligence slipped into his mind, and then Jack was falling.
Suddenly he was inside himself again, over Mischa, his fingers tightening around her throat--the Doctor's throat. The meat and cartilage and bone beneath his thumbs shifted. She made croaking sounds, her eyes bulging. Her hands clawed at his--he didn't remember that part--as he leaned all his weight into her. Her life finally gave way. The clawing hands went limp. Her eyes went blank, filmed over.
He released his grip, looked at her a moment more, then stood and stepped back from the body, from what he'd done. He looked at his hands, his palms red and hard, the backs of his hands scratched and raw. One wound seeped a line of bright red blood. He sucked it away. Nausea threatened.
Suddenly he was rising, flying up over and away from the scene.
He was face to face with the Doctor again, aware of the Doctor's presence inside him. So dark. So tired. Jack reached out, wanting to do nothing but comfort, and found himself falling again, falling into the cool, vast thickness of the Doctor's mind.
He was kneeling. His cheek rested upon a hard edge. His hand felt that hard edge, and he ran his fingers along what he realized was a console edge.
The fingers weren't Jack's. The legs were longer, differently proportioned. Jack wasn't inside himself.
He was the Doctor. The Doctor, inside Mischa's stolen, dying TARDIS.
A third presence was with them, a keening silver consciousness speaking in a composition of sound and emotion and color. The words were foreign to Jack's mind, a beautiful, overwhelming musical nonsense that he found he never wanted to stop.
At the same time, the sensory symphony was completely familiar, and completely devastating, filled with anguish, with a searing pain that went on and on for the loss of fingers and limbs and parts so deep inside that they left pulsing, gaping wounds. Some remote part of himself knew that these were metaphors for what Mischa had taken from the TARDIS. Perhaps it was some part of the Doctor. But he was certain that what Mischa had taken could never be replaced. Like removing a liver or kidneys, death wouldn't come all at once; it would come slow and painful and leave a burnt hole in the universe in its wake.
Without words, he asked the TARDIS, "What can I do?"
"Help me go," she responded, in a lament that was a short burst of everlasting harmony in a minor key. "Send me home."
She didn't know. The revelation was an earthquake inside him. She didn't know that Gallifrey was gone, that there was only one other TARDIS in the whole of the universe, of eternity. Mischa had cut her off her connection. By removing the vortex channels, she had separated the TARDIS from its source, placing her in a cage so tight and small that she was being squeezed to death by time and space itself.
Jack's--the Doctor's--legs went out from beneath him and he collapsed to the floor, his back and head resting against the console base. How to usher a TARDIS from life?
And the loneliness. Disconnected from that which sustained her, the TARDIS scrabbled to hang on to the Doctor's presence with ghostly, bleeding hands, the only presence she could feel as a whole, the first company in a lifetime.
This TARDIS had been through the Time War. The Doctor could feel those wounds, could feel the burning alive, the final death of the Time Lord whose home this had been. Could feel the TARDIS screaming for its master, its partner.
"Come to me," he told the TARDIS. "Leave through me, through my love."
The Doctor opened his mind like spreading open the doors of a palace. An electric warmth filled him, the power of ages, too large for him to contain whole. The sumptuous, anguished heart of the TARDIS flowed into him, an Amazonian tide through his mind, his heart, his veins. As she moved, she shed the millennia. She seeped out of his very pores. She was a burning golden heat that engulfed the Doctor, with a singing release that vibrated every part of him. Her presence finally dwindled in her physical structure when, with one glorious burst, she freed the last of herself through the Doctor into the corridors and chambers of eternity.
Jack felt himself dissipate into darkness, cold and black and all consuming.
When Jack opened his eyes, it took a moment for him to connect his consciousness with his body. The Doctor caught him, kept him standing. The Doctor's face glistened. Jack's own face felt tight and it hurt, as though he'd been frowning for hours, his mouth spread in some rictus of grief. Maybe it had been. And it was wet. His eyes were sore with tears.
The Doctor examined him, clear-eyed and sober.
"Are you all right?" he asked Jack.
Jack couldn't answer. He wasn't sure.
He nodded out of habit, two small motions.
"Bollocks. Come on," the Doctor said. He put his arms under Jack's shoulders and helped him over to the TARDIS jump seat. The rest was a relief. The Doctor started to rise, and Jack grabbed his hand.
"Stay," he managed to say.
The Doctor hesitated then sat again, searching his face.
"I'm sorry," Jack said. "I don't know--did it help? My . . . being there?"
The Doctor's face showed the grief that Jack had come to know so well. And something else . . . was it hope? Was it gratitude? Jack couldn't be sure, but knew that now, in this moment, the Doctor was more fragile than Jack had ever seen him. He didn't move a muscle, but held the Doctor's gaze, hoping he could see the depth of his feeling.
The Doctor leaned in then, and pressed his lips against Jack's. Jack could only kiss back, and deliver into it all the tenderness he had. The Doctor's lips were soft, cool, and when he opened his mouth to share a deeper kiss, Jack gave himself over. The kiss became fierce. The Doctor placed one hand on Jack's jaw, a controlling touch that kept Jack in place. He stayed with it; he'd let nothing get in their way.
The Doctor paused then, suddenly, then wrapped his arms around Jack in a crushing embrace. He buried his face in Jack's neck, and though he was quiet, Jack felt sobs wrack his body, sending tremors through them both. Jack held the Doctor as he wept.
Jack understood now why the Doctor had sent Rose away. This was between the two of them. It exposed too much of the private bond between them to share with her. They each knew war and death in a way that Rose never could, in a way neither of them wanted her to. Her freshness, her spirit, was what kept them both focused on the best parts of themselves. Maybe she saw these things on her own; she was smart enough, perceptive enough. But she also knew when to step back. That's when Jack realized that her absence was as much her choice as it was the Doctor's.
When the Doctor's sobs diminished, his embrace loosened. He pulled back, scrubbed his face with his hands. He left no evidence of tears there, just red sunken eyes, but eyes released from pain--not lightened, but relaxed somehow. A weight lifted.
The Doctor got up then, stepped away, went to the console, fiddled with a control. Jack knew a retreat when he saw it. He stayed on the jump seat a moment, partly to give the Doctor space, partly to gather his own strength. He had to make sure there was closure here, not the macho manliness of silent, sudden conclusion but a real emotional completeness. Rose would know if something was left unsaid or undone when she came back. Jack didn't want that. She wasn't part of this.
With a deep breath, Jack rose from the jump seat and went to the Doctor, who was looking at the indecipherable circles whirling on the screen before him. The screen bathed his face in a pale blue light. Jack put his hand on the Doctor's shoulder.
"Doctor," he said.
The Doctor's whole body tensed; Jack could feel it through the leather jacket. The Doctor looked down a moment, as though acceding that the conversation wasn't finished, then stood straight to face Jack.
"You're welcome," Jack said quietly.
The Doctor's mouth twitched. He wasn't going to say anything, Jack knew. He was back to his reticent mode, that place he went when the emotion was too high for him to speak, warm but remote.
But then, he surprised Jack. "Thank you," he said. He leaned in, one hand on Jack's neck, and gave Jack one more kiss, deep and full . . . and full of heart and gratitude and love. He pulled back enough to lean his forehead against Jack's again. "Thank you," he whispered.
"You're welcome," Jack said, his voice quiet and husky. "Always."
They stayed there that way for a moment, Jack savoring the scent and the heat of the Doctor so close. Something final passed between them, something that was theirs alone. Jack inhaled it and let it fill him. He released it, and it surrounded them both.
He felt it just a moment before it happened. Energy infused the Doctor. He sprang back.
"Now then," he said, his eyes suddenly alight. "I'm famished. We were supposed to have dinner, what, two days ago? We need to find Rose." He headed toward the TARDIS door.
Jack watched him practically bounce away. He laughed. Of course. Business done, time to move on.
He hesitated just a second or two to look at the Doctor, to take him in one more time before Rose returned and their dynamic changed again.
The Doctor opened the TARDIS door and looked back at Jack with an enormous, hopeful grin. What a treasure, Jack thought. One more treasure of lost Gallifrey. Not mine, but close enough.
He grinned and headed toward the door.